State funding still lags for Iowa universities, community colleges
A report by an Iowa City-based nonprofit research group says funding for some key state government programs is increasing, but remains below levels of past years before the nation was struck by a deep economic recession.
The research by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership says funding for higher education programs still lags behind money provided by the Iowa Legislature in the past, both for community colleges and state universities. Community college funding this year is $16.5 million behind the 2009 appropriation; the Regents’ institutions receive 3.5 percent less than they did a year ago.
“At a time of growing enrollment, Iowa’s community colleges are doing $11 million — or about 7 percent — better in this year’s budget than the year before,” said Andrew Cannon, a research associate who prepared the report. “And the governor’s proposal would boost that further. But that needs to be balanced against the fact that the increase does not keep community college funding as high as it was in 2008 and 2009.”
Similarly, Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed budget would increase funding next year for the Regents universities after a decline this year, but it would remain below 2010 levels. This continues a long, downward trend of state funding to Iowa’s public universities, which has dropped nearly 21 percent, even before adjusting for inflation, Cannon said.
Cannon also found that overall funding for critical services in Iowa is increasing, but in many cases has not caught up with past state support.
Lawmakers managed to fund public services, systems and structures in the current fiscal year largely at or above the previous year’s level, while at the same time minimizing reliance on temporary or one-time funding sources, Cannon said. This trend continues in the governor’s recommended budget for the fiscal year which begins July 1, 2012, “but it certainly does not get the budget back to pre-recession levels nor make any adjustments for the effects of inflation over these years,” he added.
“ The fact is that a number of state services and systems received fewer appropriated dollars in FY12 than they received prior to the recession, and in a few cases, even fewer appropriations than during the recession-recovery years, FY10 and FY11,” Cannon said. “ It is not clear yet what such reduced funding levels — and in the case of Iowa Workforce Development, what reduced funding and an altered delivery structure — will mean for these agencies’ ability to serve Iowans.”